Who is “the real you?”
There was a time when it was considered a rare privilege to be listed in a publication beginning with the words, Who’s Who. While there are still some legitimate directories that carry the name and feature the brightest and best, many are nothing more than mutual admiration societies – scams actually – supported by the sale of memberships.
So, who’s who? I suppose that depends on who wants to know?! Which ranks right up there with: does anybody really know what time it is, who’s your daddy, and who’s on first??? I once knew a man who greeted everyone with a smiley, what’s what? - which is slightly different than what’s up – more commonly known as, ‘sup?! As you can tell, it’s undetermined whether ‘sup is a sentence, a question, or merely a sound. Right about now you might be asking, what in the world are you talking about? - which would be a fair question.
In Matthew 10:39 Jesus said, ”He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” In addition, “Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Luke 9:23.
To be honest, I never really wanted to do that. Losing my life and carrying a cross were not big selling points for me, and self denial sounds highly overrated too. No doubt about it though, Jesus was dead serious. There are many earnest Christians who have interpreted these scriptures to mean that we must have no identity and live sullen, rigorous lives. In other words, be a nobody. ”Ah“, but they counter, “to be a nobody is really to be a somebody?” What?!
Here’s what I think. I think God knew you before you were born and has a plan for your life and personal fulfillment. I also believe that from the time you were a kid, people started loading identities on you; identities that were convenient for them. As you got older, you became more familiar with those identities than with the real you. These identities became easy to put on and take off depending on who you were with and who you needed to please. They are subtle shades of our complex realities and they take alot of energy – which is exactly why we like to go on vacations – alone – on a beach – or in a cabin – where we can be ourselves.
Occasionally, we are successful at finding ourselves. It may be for a moment, say, when you’re alone in prayer, or when you hear a song, read a book, or write in your journal. Those moments are so sweet, so rare, so completely right, that you want to freeze time and hold onto the feeling. But that’s when the phone rings, or someone walks up to you and says with a fake smile, “Can I have some help in here?” And so you awkwardly tuck yourself away, and move on to whatever they needed from you. Later then, you wonder where the real you went. Ah, but life is too busy to toy with such nonsense, and it’s probably just silly childishness anyway. Right? I hope not.
My personal belief is that Jesus wants us to crucify all of those other selves – those other identities that we’ve learned and which have become our muddled habit. Jesus offered us abundant life, which starts with forgiveness but leads to the uncovering and liberation of our true self.
In Philippians 2:6 Paul wrote, “…Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.” In other words, Jesus knew who he was – His true self – and for that reason He had no need to grasp at it. There is no need to grasp what we cannot lose.
According to Luke 9:23, Christ instructed us to deny those false identities, to crucify them and to follow Him so that we may know our true selves. So, the next time you have one of those real you moments, try to expand that space by worship and listening. Memorize how it feels to be you – to be free – and refuse to take on any other identity that benefits others but enslaves you – including roles, titles and religious duties.
If you are fortunate enough to have found yourself, you can easily surrender to God without fear of losing your true identity. If however, you’ve lost your true sense of self, even in your pursuit of God, Jesus will make sure you find yourself again. That is the promise of Matthew 10:39.
So then, who’s who? If you know the answer to that question then you know what it means to be free, because “…if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36